Animal Diesel at US Pumps in 2007

ConocoPhillips, one of the largest US oil companies, and Tyson Foods, the world's largest meat produces, have recently announced that they plan to start adding animal fat to the diesel sold by ConocoPhillips at pumps by the end of 2007. The fat, which would come from pigs, cows, and chickens, would be indistinguishable from regular diesel, and chemically equivalent to diesel itself.

The companies say that animal fat diesel will be cleaner than regular diesel, as it has lower levels of carbon dioxide and zero sulfur. They hope to produce and sell about 175 million gallons of animal diesel a year, or about 3% of the total diesel output of ConocoPhillips.

At first, the merits of this idea sound suspicious. Didn't we recently hear about how eating a hamburger uses as much energy as driving your car 100 miles and leaving all the lights on back home? How meat processing plants produce more harmful emissions than all the cars and trucks in the world? If so, then how could producing animals as fuel be energy-efficient, cost-effective or--especially--environmentally friendly?

Also, on the minds of all those people at PETA, isn't killing all these animals especially cruel? 175 million gallons is a lot of animals.

However, Tyson Foods manager Geoffrey Webster emphasizes that they're only using the byproducts of animals that have already been killed for other purposes-most often, food. The fat taken for diesel is fat that is currently being used in soaps, cosmetics and pet food. Tyson will process the fat, and then distribute it to ConocoPhillips for transformation into fuel.

Also, unlike ethanol that is made from grain, palm oil and sugar cane, animal fat won't cut into the food supply since it is a non-edible waste. And as a biofuel, animal fat is supposedly still less harmful than burning fossil fuels.

ConocoPhillips plans to spend around $100 million on the project, and are hoping to enjoy government tax breaks of $1 per gallon for providing an alternative renewable fuel. However, a US House bill approved last Saturday is trying to prevent the companies from getting this break by taking out the choice words "using a thermal depolymerization process" from the bill--making it difficult for the companies to claim their tax credit.

The companies say that, without the tax credit, the implementation of animal fat diesel would not be economical. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, explains that ConocoPhillips has plenty of tax credits already, and the government wants to "prevent green energy initiatives from being converted into boondoggles." Hopefully, greed on either side of the table won't stop a good idea--or what seems like a good idea--from coming into fruition.

More about the economics of pig diesel in this recent article at The Morning News.

Lisa Zyga
Science Blogger

via: Houston Chronicle

Aug 9, 2007
by kamuela (not verified)

Using fat as fuel

I aplaud their efforts at reusing the fat for a good purpose.  Maybe hospitals should offer free liposuction and make a profit now... 

Aug 9, 2007
by makeworldbetter
makeworldbetter's picture

Mark vegetarian gas pump green, please

I am sure vegetarian people would like to know what they put into their car

Aug 9, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

The U.S.

will continue to "hog" all the fuel.